"No. I've never been on Wac-a-Day..."

People When I was at school there someone a few years older than me who was convinced that I'd been on the Timmy Mallett opus Wac-a-Day nothing, not even a lack of a bruise on my forehead could disuade him from what would become a two year obsession. Even has he stepped out of the front door of the school I just know he was looking back at the clock tower and thinking -- "I was right... if only I could find the truth..." Sadly I never got to meet Timmy or his large menacing pink instrument of brain cell distruction but I got over it -- to the extent that I hadn't thought about him or my school friends misguided theories unitl I saw this remarkably detailed piece in the The London News Review. It appears Mr Mallett is actually multi-talented -- a painter, live performer and as it turns out male alternate for I'm A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here... which has surrounding it a whiff of tragedy -- that missed opportunity at a second chance of fame. He could have been him going insania with Jordan. The nightmare that is the decent of light entertainment into hell continues.

"C'mon Kelly! C'mon Kelly! C'mon Kelly! Kelly! Yeeeaaahs!"

Sport Well, what an end to the Olympic Athetics. It's horrid to think that before the games I secretly eyed betting some money on Kelly Holmes winning the double but decided against it because she didn't have a hope. Not really. 100-1. Yet again I'm able to prove that don't in fact know anything about anything.

This was confirmed in the opening moments of the 4x100m Men's final as I adolescently shouted 'You suck!' at the screen as we were offered a close-up of each of the British athletes, my vitriol reserved particular for Darren Campbell. I couldn't watch to be honest. But then I looked back at the tv during my cherry yoghurt to find Mark Lewis-Francis in the home straight actually looking good and my screams of appreciation began again. Apparently I haven't laughed as loudly in years. Good times -- although I did feel for Steve Backley. Hopefully the BBC will set him up with a punditing or presenting job to keep him busy.

This is the first Olympics which I've actually been caught up -- not able to do anything but watch and listen to as much coverage as I could, upset when I missed anything. I'm sure some of this has to do with my Commonwealth Games experiences -- I've an appreciation of what it means for athletes just to be there at the top of their game living out the dream which they've fought for since they were at college or younger. So I'm always happy when someone, like Lucy Hardy in the Kayaking today managed to reach seventh place -- to get there she has had to put in the performance of her life and that's across the board.

But I've also been as passionate about the negativity and the mysteries -- why were the swim team (Mr Parry excepted) unable to put it together on a general level when the indication was that it would be their year? What's up with our starier athletles like Darren Campbell or Paula Radcliffe and why did we become so obsessed with them falling back when other people in other disciplines outdid themselves? Perhaps its because to some extent we've always looked at the athletics as our golden zone when during this games (tonight excepted) it's been the non-mass participations sports which have been battleground which we have invaded and conquered bit-by-bit.

Hopefully the real legacy of the games will be that the sporting playing field will be leveled -- that youngsters will become interested in games which happen not just in water but floating across it, in which they can drift across the track on two wheels as well as padding away on two feet. I think what the past fortnight has proved is that winning a gold medal is good for those who can reach that, but for most it's about competing with heart and distinction and being pleased that you were happy just to be there...

"Well played clerks..."

Film My ongoing quest to prove that I've slipped into an alternate reality which is bending itself to my will continues with the announcement that Kevin Smith is writing and directing a sequel to Clerks. Everyone returns, including Jay & Silent Bob and it's punningly to be titled The Passion Of The Clerks. I'm hoping for a return to the down and dirty style of that first film with less of the flights of fancy which have drifted in since then. Although is there any chance we could get Alec Baldwin to cameo as Leonardo Leonardo from the cartoon series?

capital of culture photos include sefton park

Lush photo of the daffodils in the park available as part of a set of prints through the Liverpool Echo. Other views are Canning Dock, the Anglican cathedral, the two cathedrals, the Three Graces and St George's Hall.

The Vietnam Riviera

TV Just a tip for next week, BBC Four are showing some new Holidays in the Danger Zone documentaries, this time we have America Was Here in which Ben Anderson looks at countries which the United States invaded or interfered with during the Cold War. Part one covers Vietnam and Cambodia. Part two looks at Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras and Panama. Anyone who's seen the previous pieces in a pre-war Iraq and elsewhere will know how amazing these things are. The section on Iran consisted of some very tired interviews in an office somewhere because they were picked up for spying and thrown in a jail for the three weeks they were supposed to be film. Hardly the kind of thing you'd find in Going Places.

The other great 10k story

Sport I stood in the street outside work listening to the Women's 10km final and Paula Radcliffe passing out. It'll be all the media will be talking about tomorrow, but I think the following is the real story from the race:
"At the front, Xing Huina ran a brilliant race to take gold when it seemed certain that Ethiopia would maintain its stranglehold over the event. Defending champion Tulu was well placed with 400m to go and looked as if she would sprint clear to gold as she had done in Sydney. But Xing Huina accelerated past Dibaba coming into the home straight to stun the Ethiopians. Afterwards however, Dibaba was convinced she had won gold, thinking that Xing was a lapped runner and refused to accept for several minutes that she had come second. "I didn't see where the Chinese girl came from," she explained, adding that she thought she could have overtaken Xing had she known. The Ethiopians said they had been looking out for the other Chinese runner, world bronze medallist Sun Yingjie, and had not paid attention to Xing."
You really need to know who your enemies are ... congratulations to Georgina Harland for fighting her way up to Bronze medal position in the Modern Pentathlon again having murdered a field in a running event. I see a pattern forming...

'Let's get this straight. Are you saying I've been lying about my injury?' 'Yes'.

Sport I saw the Michael Johnson interview in which he suggested that Darren Campbell had been inconsistent with his comments about the injury he had sustained and how it had effected his performance in the heats for his main disiplines. For the people who missed it:
"I'm confused, Darren said he'd pulled his hamstring, then said he's in the best shape of my life. Then when he was asked about the relay he said 'It doesn't feel too bad now' and then he said I'm hurt. Darren is upset that people are questioning what's going on with him. No-one's ever questioned that he's a great athlete - he's a championship performer but obviously he's not in shape right now. So why not just say that? Everyone will respect that. But when you pull a hamstring, you're out for six weeks - you can't run. After the second round, I felt bad for Darren coming off the track, wincing. But then he said 'I'm going to run the semi-final.' I felt like I'd been taken advantage of, as a viewer and as a supporter of Darren. That bothers me because I think he's better than that."
Which I can absolutely understand, especially as Johnson was obviously choosing his words carefully. If you look at the interview Campbell gave it's almost as though he's trying to use his injury as a reason for his poor performance but at the same time trying to mask it. But Johnson is a pundit, he has an opinion, and he's voiced it. But then you hear about this happening:
"The Briton allegedly confronted Johnson, the 400m world record holder and former Olympic champion, at a party hosted by MTV in an Athens nightclub after the race on Wednesday evening. His agent Sue Barrett told the London Evening Standard: "Darren told him [Johnson], 'I'm not happy about what you've been saying about me' and Johnson replied, 'That's my opinion.' It's a small tear but for a sprinter it's a fairly significant injury GB&I team doctor Brian English "When Darren said, 'Let's get this straight. Are you saying I've been lying about my injury?' Johnson responded 'Yes'. Then he walked away."
Effectively the precedant here is that if a pundit says something about another athlete on television, the athlete can then go and confront the pundit about what they've said. To make a comparison, how about Alan Hanson on Match of the Day. Week in and out he has an opinion on the performance of a player, a manager, a team -- does that then mean they have the right to confront them on that? Or for something closer to home, if I say that I think Van Helsing is just appauling and offer a hundred reasons that the director Stephen Summers can seek me out and argue the point with me? If people are happy with the work they're doing and that they're doing the best they can do, why take the opinions of someone else so seriously?

Jump! Down on Jump! Street!

TV I'm not expecting a UK release for 21 Jump Street: The 1st Season which is a shame because I did like the series (although I was never sure why). Slightly tempted by the price at PlayUSA. Decisions...

What is your name, and who is your father?

TV Is the key to a hit series to have a simple self explainatory title which everyone can understand?
"Once the Olympics finish, NBC will unveil the following new series: A sitcom about Joey from "Friends" called... "Joey"; A drama set in the LAX airport called... "LAX"; A drama set in Hawaii called... "Hawaii" and a drama about medical investigation called... (wait for it)... "Medical Investigation." Not leaving anything to chance with those titles, are they? You know exactly what you're getting with those shows, don't you? (Well, technically, "Hawaii" should be called "Hawaii Cops," but it's close enough.)

But then, is this a surprise? Last fall, NBC introduced three new dramas: a legal thriller called "Lyon's Den," a romantic comedy called "Miss Match," and a Las Vegas series called "Las Vegas." Guess which one was a hit and which two flopped. (I think I might have actually stuck with "Lyon's Den" had it been called "Legal Thriller," just for the comedy value.)"
Looking at this from a UK perspective, how many soaps use place names? See ....

When in Rome ...

Geography Minimalist approach to Greek Culture. So not actually Greek celebrities (Kalimera Natasha Atlas!) but people of Greek decent. Not really the same thing is it?

New York Tolerance Center

Architecture The impressive New York Tolerance Center: "In an era when immersive multimedia experiences are associated with frivolous but violent games, one small building in Manhattan is harnessing these technologies to teach important lessons of peaceful coexistence. The New York Tolerance Center was designed by NBBJ to help people and organizations explore issues of prejudice, diversity, and cooperation in the community and the workplace."

And measure still for measure ...

Theatre BBC Four's new season, including: "Measure For Measure. Following on from the phenomenal success of Richard II last year, BBC FOUR returns to The Globe Theatre to present Shakespeare's enduring comedy, Measure For Measure. The live performance is further enhanced by a special interactive theatre programme for digital viewers. Directed by John Dove, Mark Rylance plays Vincentio, Sophie Thompson is Isabella, with Liam Brennan as Angelo." Rylance as Vincento, perfect casting.


Life The first time I heard copper money -- penny and twopences described at shrapnel was at university. And like that other phrase which I thought was only in use in my hall -- swampdonkey -- it's gone on to have popular usage. It was about that time I started collecting small change and on and off over the past ten years I'd managed fill a giant plastic sweet box. It filled up finally thing morning and we counted it. I'd expected a fiver at most. Instead -- I found out I had £52 sitting on my window ledge in coinage. Which by a strange co-incidence is the cost of the dvd writer I spotted in The Computer Shop the other day. Isn't it odd how life matches up sometimes?

'I wouldn't want to be a member of any club that would have me as a member' -- Woody Allen

Email Particularly good overview of Gmail from Max PC. I've still got some invites left if anyone is interested.

We haven't mention her once ...

Sport I know I've been moaning about my late shift at work this week, but if I hadn't been around at home this morning I would have missed one of my favourite Olympics moments this time, Austria's Kate Allen winning the Triathlon. It surprised everyone, least of all the BBC commentators who had spent the best part of two and a half hours talking about the greatness of Australian athlete Loretta Harrop, everything she was doing for the sport and how there was no one to beat her. Sampled dialogue included (I'm paraphrasing):
"Well Harrop is getting closer and closer -- she can taste the Gold medal. She's licking her lips."
"I think the Australian athlete has this one in the bag unless something extraordinary happens."
"Who's that? Where did she come from?"
"She's in silver medal position. Well that's an upset."
"Look at the split times. She picked up 3 minutes. That's incredible!"
"We haven't mentioned her once during the race."

A glance at the results demonstrates what Allen achieved today. After the swimming she was in 44th position. After the cycling and sticking with the large chasing pack she was in 10th place and then in the run she worked her way up through all the gaps into a gold medal. We shouldn't forget also that Michelle Dillon from Team GB chased her all the way and ended up with a respectable sixth place.

Which highlight the most disappointing aspect of the coverage of long distance races in general. For whatever reason, the directors of the images concentrate on the athletes in the main positions when the real stories are being told in the lower places. Something similar happened during the women's marathon at the weekend. After following Mizuki Noguchi and the rest of the opening pack for the whole race, they completely failed to cover the work being done by the American Deena Kastor, who like Kate Allen worked her way up the field picking them off one by one -- I would rather been watching that in the closing stages than endless shots of Noguchi in the lead just as here there was only so much Harrop, extraordinary looking as she is. As far as we know, in what has been one of the most widely cover Olympics in television terms there isn't any footage of her fighting her way into the top spot, of one of the really great stories of these games and all because someone wasn't watching the stastics which were pouring in and sending someone out to cover it. Madness. Still, I'll be watching the Men's Triathlon tomorrow and hoping for the best.

UPDATE: I've just watched a highlights package on Olympic Report tonight and it had a wierd retrospective commentary in which the narrator pretended he hadn't seen the race before and pretended to be surprised when Allen took over and snuck in all kinds of information he didn't have, or didn't have time for the first time around. Most odd.

Journalist considers the tricks of the trades

Work Matthew Baldwin called and many professional answered and offered the top tips of for getting by in work. For example, from a journalist: "If you can?t think of a headline for a story, use one of these three magic verbs: 'weighs,' 'mulls,' or 'considers.' They?ll work for pretty much anything from court stories ('Hamilton mulls plea deal') to government stories ('Governor weighs Paseo extension') to entertainment ('Colvin considers new album') to features ('Benson mulls those who consider weighing Kasey?s artwork')." [via]

Grey hairs

Life I looked in the mirror today and saw grey hairs. Up until now I've deluded myself that it was just the way that the light was hitting them, but now I'm coming to terms with the fact that I'm on the steadly slide through Reed Richards to Magneto. It also struck me again that I'm thirtysomething in two months on Halloween. But I'm not ready. Emotionally, spiritually, mentally. It doesn't add up and like many of those sport people lately I'm going to take it to the court of arbitration. I'm not giving this up yet.

You too will believe a weatherman can fly ...

TV The BBC are revamping the weather maps across their channels to resemble a flight simulator: "The new system will replace the BBC's current six-year-old weather graphics. There will be less reliance on traditional maps, with weather forecasts instead feeling like a flight simulator game. Details revealed today indicate that forecasts will include a fly-over element with meteorologists being able to change "camera angles" to focus on particular parts of the UK. Rain and other weather conditions will be rendered in 3D, adding more of a realistic look to the on-air presentation."

Pam Grier is ...

Film Brief Pam Grier interview. On seeing Quentin Tarantino for the first time: "I met Quentin on the streets of LA when I was riding in a car with a friend of mine. We see this man in shorts with wild hair turn and say, 'Hey, it's Pam Grier,' and start running off at the mouth. I'm like, 'Who is this freak?' He comes over and says, 'I'm Quentin Tarantino,'and I said, 'Oh, Reservoir Dogs!' because that's the first thing I thought of. He says, 'Well you know, I'm writing a script for you,' and I'm thinking, 'Oh yeah, RIGHT! Raggedy hair, dirty T-shirt and you're Quentin Tarantino.'"

The Olympics of Highlights

Life Sadly (for me anyway) my late shift has fallen this week so I'm missing my favourite bit of the Olympics, the athletics, live. Frustatingly I'm seeing the heats before I go to work, but I missed Kelly Holmes winning tonight (come one Kelly!) and I'll be missing all the other goodies. So here I am watching BBC's Olympic Report for the reason its there -- to update people who've missed everything, rather than to consolidate what has gone before. My original plan was to dodge everything Likely Lads style so that everything would be a surprise but I just couldn't. I'm too curious.

Poor Paula

Sport Watching Paul Radcliffe stop in exhaustion earlier in the Women's Marathon portion of the Olympic Games shows yet again that no matter how much the media and even we ourselves build up our athletes to be something other than human, they are just like us. As usual the BBC's coverage (despite worried asides from Steve Cram and Brendan Foster) built her Gold up as a forgone conclusion, much as the Men's Coxless Fours had been yesterday. It add pressure to the athletes to perform and I wonder if on this occasion it contributed to this athletes disappointment. It certainly contributed to ours.

[As an aside, though I would like to point out that in the main the BBC's coverage has been great, especially on Radio Five Live. It's just on the odd occasion when I've wished that they could be a bit more cautious.]

More Gmail Invites

Email Just in case anyone would like to join the party, I've now got 6 Gmail invites to give away. I do need your full name and email address to proceed though.

Snow Crystal Photography

Photography I know it's the middle of the summer, but this Snow Crystal Photography is gorgeous even if it's only on the screen and not keeping me cool on this suddenly warm day: "Snowflakes are temporary works of art. After just a few short minutes on the ground, a fallen snowflake will lose its ornate structure, its unique pattern that will never again be repeated. Photography allows us to preserve a few of these minute masterpieces and to examine their form up close. Below are some examples of snow crystal photographs from around the world."